President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday gave assent to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, that aims to make Indian roads safer, reduce corruption and use technology to overhaul the country's transportation system.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that introduces several amendments in the 30-year-old law, was passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha earlier this month.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament by the road transport and highway ministry in 2016, after which it was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017. However, it failed to muster support in the Rajya Sabha.

Towards safety, the law has proposed stiffer penalties for traffic rule violations such as over-speeding, dangerous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and other offences such as not wearing a helmet or driving without licence.

The penalty for drunk driving has been increased by five times to 2,000. Speeding will now attract a fine or 5,000 instead of 500 earlier. Noting giving way to emergency vehicles such as ambulances will attract a 10,000 fine.

According to the road transport and highways ministry, half a million accidents are reported in India every year, in which 150,000 people lose their lives.

"Higher penalties will be applicable/implemented as soon as soon as the Bill gets the President's assent," a senior government official told Mint.

However, the Centre needs to frame rules for other provisions such as those for aggregators and creation of a road safety board.

The new law also allows the Centre to ask manufacturers to recall vehicles in case of defects that cause harm to the environment. Besides, the Centre, in consultation with the states, can frame a national transportation policy to transform the rural and public road transportation system and improve last-mile connectivity.

"The amendments...mainly focus on issues relating to improving road safety, citizens' facilitation while dealing with the transport department, strengthening rural transport, last-mile connectivity and public transport, automation and computerization and enabling online services," the transport ministry said last month.

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